TalkOrigins Letter of the Month

For the January, 2004 TalkOrigins Letter of the Month, the runner-up is “A Dialogue with Dembski?”

It has been clear since at least Dembski’s book “Intelligent Design: the Bridge between Science and Theology” that all of Dembski’s verbiage about “specified complexity” was essentially pointless, because at the key point, when specified complexity is applied to biology, Dembski relies on Behe’s irreducible complexity to exclude the gradual buildup of “specified information” to reach “complex specified information,” i.e. “specified complexity.”Thus Dembski’s argument has always reduced to Behe’s argument, and I never saw much point in dealing with anything else — although many others, bless their hearts, have delved into DembskiLand rather deeply. But it remains the case that if Behe is wrong then Dembski’s arguments collapse as well (well, except for his emergency backup positions like “Well, even if evolution can produce IC that just means that specified complexity was frontloaded into creation from the beginning, or is introduced undetectably at the quantum level. Or something.”)

The great thing now is that Dembski sees the problem on some level and is trying to shore up IC. This leads to all kinds of entertaining obfuscation, along the lines of:

Dembski: “Specified complexity cannot be produced by evolution.”

Evo: “Well duh, you made ‘cannot be produced by natural processes’ part of the definition of specified complexity. Your statement is thus a meaningless tautology.”

Dembski: “Irreducible complexity cannot be produced by evolution, and this means that IC systems exhibit SC.”

Evo: “You are ignoring change-of-function, an important evolutionary process that has been cited as the explanation for systems with ‘irreducible complexity’ ever since Darwin himself.”

Dembski: “OK, well I guess evolution can hypothetically produce IC after all, but there’s no evidence that cooption actually happens in natural settings, the only good evidence of this is in technological evolution.”

Evo: “Here’s a bunch of examples of change-of-function in natural systems. A bunch of these have even resulted in IC toxin degradation systems in historical times.”

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